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Development of methodologies to accelerate alloy design for additive manufacturing

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, April 30, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The ability to produce parts with complex geometries, previously inaccessible via traditional fabrication methods, has made additive manufacturing (AM) an enabling production process for a host of industries. However, the introduction of metal AM into service has been slow to develop due to the necessity for the design of alloys tailored to these manufacturing methods. The alloy development process has in turn been limited by the difficulties encountered in reliably producing metal powders and the subsequent time-consuming evaluation of AM builds before specialised testing can commence.


To this end, this programme aims to create processes through which alloy design for AM can be facilitated by establishing methodologies for accelerated powder production and rapid AM build evaluation flows. Firstly, methodologies for accelerated alloy powder production will be established. Currently, alloy development programs rely on alloy compositions going through the full atomisation process, i.e. an ingot of the desired composition is produced using induction melting and subsequently atomised to achieve a powder distribution with the required characteristics. This process is time consuming and as a result only a limited number of alloys can be comprehensively evaluated in powder form. Through this project a novel methodology of producing powders will be developed whereby a solid solution master alloy will be designed, and elemental powders will be used to microalloy the powder ex situ so that a number of different alloys with varying chemistries may be obtained. This will therefore only necessitate a single atomisation step as the ex situ microalloying can be achieved using powder blending processes that are achievable in significantly faster time frames.

Following the successful production of an array of metallic powders, additive manufacturing will be used to create a set of samples to evaluate the composition’s amenability to AM processing. Whilst AM parts can be built in a number of hours, the evaluation of their characteristics is a slow and time-consuming process, and hence, evaluation flows that allow an initial assessment of AM quality are required. This project will focus on creating methods for rapid baseplate release of AM parts in order to allow characterisation using non-destructive methods for defect characterisation (X-ray computed tomography and/or acoustic or resonant ultrasound methods) as well as spectroscopy methods for chemical analysis of the alloy composition and diffraction based techniques to evaluate the initial microstructural condition of the material. This will allow the ranking and downselection of suitable compositions for further, tailored testing. In addition, the consistent characterisation of sample build using AM on platforms that allow in situ monitoring will enable a cross-correlation of monitored parameters with AM build quality to be established that can be further used to improve machine learning algorithms developed through MAPP for improved AM parameter selection.

The project will seek to demonstrate the efficacy of the methodologies described by undertaking an alloy design case study for hydrogen storage applications. Sahlberg et al. [10.1038/srep36770], highlighted the potential of the body-centred cubic high entropy alloy (HEA) system TiVZrNbHf to be used for hydrogen storage applications. Through this project, a solid solution master alloy from the TiVZrNbHf or similar systems will be designed initially by using thermodynamic models to guide the selection. This master alloy will be powder processed and subsequently a range of compositions will be created using microalloying to investigate these types of systems to develop HEA hydrides but also to explore the possibility of designing HEA Laves phases or AB5 based intermetallics that may allow improvements to be realised for hydrogen storage solutions. The compositions developed will be built on available powder bed platforms and rapidly evaluated using the combination of techniques outlined above. Promising samples will then be identified for further testing of hydrogen storage materials.

Whilst the project aims to primarily explore methods of accelerated alloy design, it may also identify promising alloys for hydrogen storage applications as well as identify methods that may provide valuable for resource efficiency in the production of metal powders requiring fewer atomisation steps.

Funding Notes

Funding covers home tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of at least the Research Council minimum for eligible UK and EU applicants for 3.5 years. EU nationals must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme to be eligible for a full award (fees and stipend).

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?
Materials Science and Engineering

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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